From the Archives: Cold-Weather Adventures

Isabel Wright

Mazinaw Rock in winter, Bon Echo Provincial Park. (Photo by C. McPherson)

[This article ran in the December 2013/January 2014 issue of The SCOOP.]

I will be the first to admit that the summer climate here in Ontario is much more inviting than that of our winters. When the colder months come along, bringing rain, wind, and snow, outdoor activities can seem a little out of place. However, if you bundle up (dress in layers!) and make sure to check the weather forecast, it is very possible to enjoy our lovely local landscape in the chillier months. If you need a little more enticing, how do enhanced powers of concentration, decreased stress, and a happiness boost sound to you? Here are a few ideas to get you started!

Bon Echo Provincial Park is currently closed for the winter, but you can still hike during the day. There are many hiking trails, ranging in distance from one to 17 kilometers, and there are several areas with picnic benches and stunning views of the lake. You can see the hieroglyphs on Mazinaw Rock from a trail that goes along the shore of Mazinaw Lake, and you will see some beautiful trees and wildlife on every trail.

The trails at Sheffield Conservation Area are rugged but rewarding. There is a four kilometer loop around several lakes, which finishes by taking you back to the Dark Sky Viewing Area (another pretty cool trip!) via the old highway. The lookout trails are sometimes difficult to locate, but certainly worth a few extra minutes, and any of the lookout points could make a great place for lunch or a snack break. To do the whole loop, it takes about one and a half hours of walking at a moderate pace. Just a warning- this trail is not recommended for icy weather, and you should have some comfort with hiking before you try it.

*On November 17, I went back to this trail, and one of the bridges across a beaver dam has been obliterated by the current. This trail is still great, but it is not possible to complete the loop until the water levels are lower- plan to start at the entrance to the conservation area, walk to the waterway, and double back to the beginning. It takes about two hours this way.

Sandbanks Provincial Park is a popular swimming destination in the summer, but it is just as great in the fall, winter and spring. There are lots of hiking trails, and when there is enough snow on the ground there are several opportunities for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. It is also the perfect place to go bird watching, as it is at a prime location to witness bird migrations in the fall and spring.

Keep safety in mind when you head outside; even just for a day hike it is important to be properly prepared. Especially in cold weather, bring extra clothing, a rain jacket, sturdy shoes, and warm socks. Make sure to bring along plenty of water, some food, and sunscreen for those brilliant sunny, winter days. Don’t forget a map if you are unfamiliar with the area- many are available to print from It is also a very good idea to bring a friend or family member along with you, both for safety purposes and for some company!

This area of Ontario is home to some absolutely incredible species of animals and plants, including many on the endangered species list. Check out a guidebook, or simply go out with a careful eye.

The Kingston branch of the Rideau Trail Association offers outings nearly every weekend. They organize field trips to many established hiking trails and local parks, including Frontenac and Charleston Lake, and many of them are appropriate for any skill level.

Fall and winter landscapes offer a whole new realm of opportunity for artistic activities. Head outside with your camera, sketchbook, or watercolours to capture the beautiful colours, scenery, and animals of the chillier seasons. You can do this anywhere: your backyard, a park, or on a hike!

If you, like me, are a student already looking forward to next summer, think about registering for a program at the Gould Lake Outdoor Center. They offer programs in Algonquin, Temagami, the Adirondacks, Georgian Bay, and many other amazing locations, and focus on wilderness skills, canoeing, and appreciating the great outdoors. You get high school credit, a physical challenge, and an incredible experience.